An upcoming rally by BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in north Bihar's Muzaffarpur town has security agencies fretting.
Slated for March 3, the rally will be Modi's first public engagement in Bihar since serial bomb blasts rocked Patna's Gandhi Maidan minutes before he addressed his debut election rally in the state on October 27 last year. Six people died in the blasts.
Security agencies are particularly worried about Muzaffarpur being the rally location, considering its proximity to "terror hubs" like Darbhanga and Samastipur as identified by the National Investigation Agency.
"Darbhanga was the playground of Indian Mujahideen (IM) co-founder Yasin Bhatkal (nabbed from the Indo-Nepal border last year). And Samastipur is the home district of Tehseen Akhtar alias Monu, accused in the Patna blasts and now regarded as a top IM operative," said a security official on condition of anonymity.
What's more worrying is that five of the accused in the Patna bomb blasts – Akhtar, Haider Ali alias Abdullah, Numan Ansari, Taufeeq Ansari and Mojibullah – are still at large.
Central agencies believe that the five have formed a new group under the IM.
"Modi faces a direct threat from almost all jihadi outfits," said a highly placed source in a security agency.
Meanwhile, RJD chief Lalu Prasad has decided to hold a parallel rally in Muzaffarpur on the same day, apparently to project himself as the leading figure in the anti-Modi, "secular" political establishment.
But Prasad's move has only complicated matters further for the security agencies. Officials admitted that his rally would "stretch" the resources of the security establishment.
To prepare for Modi's rally, Bihar police have planned a five-layer security arrangement at the police line grounds in Muzaffarpur, the proposed venue.
Over 100 hand-held metal detectors, 25 door frame metal detectors, three anti-sabotage teams, two bomb disposal squads and two commando units of the anti-terrorist squad, besides sniffer squads, have been dispatched to the rally grounds.
"We are working hard to avert any security breach this time, especially since suspected terror modules have found lodgement in districts surrounding Muzaffarpur, like Darbhanga, Madhubani, Samastipur and East Champaran," said a top police official.
On Saturday, a high-level meeting of top police officers, including officials of the special branch, was held at the state police headquarters to assess security arrangements.
"Everyone coming to the rally will be frisked twice. Twenty people at a time will be checked simultaneously," said a senior police officer.
He said there would also be a large posse of policemen in plainclothes to keep an eye on each person entering or leaving the grounds.
Muzaffarpur zone inspector general of police Pankaj Darad told Hindustan Times, "We have no official inputs on the Gujarat chief minister's visit, but we have begun preparations for security at the venue in earnest."
Sources said the Union ministry of home affairs was also closely monitoring the arrangements for the rally.